Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lay Me Down, Baby

Like a fine wine, some beer is meant to be stored, set down so that it can fully mature. And Imperial stouts fall firmly into that category.

Not all Imperial stouts require aging. I've been able to bring a bottle back from the store, open it up, and savour it. For example, in this series of reviews, I opened a Bolshevik Bastard shortly after I picked up the four-pack at the LCBO, and I enjoyed the flavours as they presented themselves. I also picked up another Imperial stout that is meant to be consumed straight away—a Long, Dark Voyage to Uranus, by Sawdust City Brewing Company—and savoured it that very night, and again, a couple of weeks later.

I liked it, but didn't include it in this series of reviews because I had already chosen my list. I'll review it some other time, perhaps.

But what has really struck me, over the past couple of months (has it been that long??), is that not all Imperial stouts are created equally, and while some can be polished off on the night they left the liquor store, some must not.

Some must be put away and forgotten.

To wrap up my series of Imperial stout reviews, I was going to compare two ales that have been in my cellar for at least a year. They were by the same brewery and I thought it would be good to compare how they had aged.

When I did the last review of this Imperial stout, I thought it would be a good idea to let them age. I didn't let them age long enough.

The beer was a Russian Imperial stout, by McAuslan.

I brought my bottle from 2012 and 2013 up from the cellar. I decided to try the 2012 first, figuring it would have mellowed a little more, and I didn't want the 2013 to overpower my taste buds.
St-Ambroise Special Reserve 2012
Bourbon Wood-Aged Russian Imperial Stout (9.2% ABV)
McAuslan Brewing, Inc.
Montreal QC
Appearance: a murky, coffee brown with a light, creamy, cocoa-brown head that settles to a thin cap.

Nose: bourbon and oak, burnt toffee and cocoa.

Palate: big-time, toasty bourbon, prunes, and alcohol, with a boozy, charred-wood finish.

Overall impression: an Imperial stout that is as intense as this needed time before I could properly form an opinion. My taste buds needed time to adjust, because at first, I didn't like it. It was too much, too strong, too harsh. But I nursed the glass for a couple of hours, and as it opened up, ever so slightly, I gained an appreciation for it. I saw its potential, saw what it could become, if only I had left it in my cellar longer. Much longer.

Enjoying such an Imperial stout is like enjoying a good single-malt scotch. It is meant to be sipped, to be savoured.

It's also meant to age, for far longer than two years.

Beer O'Clock rating: 3 (for now)

When my friend, Perry, first gave me a case of his Russian Imperial stout, he told me that he thought it could stand up for 10 years. I was surprised, but I learned in drinking it, nine years on, that he was right. And I will finish my last bottle on its tenth anniversary.

The McAuslan stout is the same. It could last 10 years. It certainly shouldn't be released from its bottle before it turns five. I regret opening this bottle too soon, but I can redeem myself.

I placed the bottle of 2013 back in the cellar, promising myself to hold onto it until at least 2018 or 2020.

Or longer.

This is my last Imperial stout review until my friend's beer hits 10. I probably won't have another Imperial stout until then, as my palate craves something different.

I'll have another review next week. Cheers!

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